Christmas Behind Bars
Post by Maureen Fischer, MaureenInk Communications, Twitter: @ MaureenFischer, www.MaureenInk.com
Note: Social Media Consultant Maureen Fischer contributed hundreds of hours of her time to Amicus in launching this blog and integrating it with our other social media. Thanks Maureen! You’ve made “Inside Change” something we can all be proud of. You’re always an Amicus in our eyes!
Yesterday, I interviewed five ex-offenders who happened to be in the office working on their resumes and using the computers. I asked what it’s like to spend the holidays in a correctional facility. Two had spent time in Faribault, two in Lino Lakes, one in St. Cloud. They generously shared their experiences:
What’s it like to spend Christmas day in prison?
“No extra visits, you gotta get that done earlier in the week.”
“There’s no Santa, that’s for sure.”
“For a Christmas present you get a bag with an apple, a cookie, juice and a bag of chips. Then you trade with your neighbor— ‘let me get that, you don’t want that.'”
Does anything special happen in honor of the day?
“They feed you a little bit better. They give you something like turkey and dressing.”
“They try. They gave us pie.”
“But you hardly have time to eat it.”
Can you call home?
“Family calls are allowed, but it’s hard to get the phone. There’s a big line and little time. After they switch you in, you’re locked in.”
“You’re locked in looking for Santa Claus.” LAUGHTER
How do you cope?
“As bad as it is, even now, we’re making light of it. Humor’s the only way to deal with it.”
“The memories fade. Of course, you have resentment. But there’s nothing time can’t erase. Get a little bit of freedom, you forget all about it.”
Did you find ways to make it easier?
“It’s how you look at it. You can view it as grim if you want to. I just tried to get out of that mindset.”
“Stay focused on something you need to do—divert your mind from the situation. I mean, we could be doing life, or we could be dead. Thank God for the small miracle we got.”
“The way I looked at it, it was just a minor setback. I just kept doing what I needed to do– work, school, so when I got out, I’d accomplished something and could move on.”
“On a day like Christmas, you’ve got to play mind games with yourself.”
The five men I spoke with displayed a range of attitudes and emotions during our brief talk– bitterness, resignation, optimism–but all had a sense of humor and varying degrees of hope. Robert and Roger, who gave me their first names, seemed particularly skilled at methods for dealing with a life setback like incarceration. I only had a few minutes with them, but those two especially conveyed a resolve to move on and break the cycle of imprisonment forever.
On behalf of those in prison on December 25th, those re-entering their communities, and those involved in the juvenile justice system, thank you for your friendship with Amicus this past year. Your partnership makes everything we do possible. We wish you friendship, peace and hope this holiday season.